Malissa Taylor


Focusing on the province of Damascus, this study shows that individuals of the ʿaskarī class were obligated to pay village taxes in proportion to the amount of property they owned, and that it was the village cultivators who had the primary authority for individuating and collecting these taxes. Providing a detailed picture of the relations between the ʿaskarī class and peasant communities before the rise of the a’yān in the eighteenth century, the study explores how peasants sought to enforce their decisions on these powerful individuals and to what extent they were successful in doing so.

Mahmood Kooria


Ponnāni was a port in southwestern India that resisted the Portuguese incursions in the sixteenth century through the active involvement of religious, mercantile and military elites. In the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Ponnāni was the only place where the Dutch East India Company had commercial access into the kingdom of the Zamorins of Calicut. When the Dutch gained prominence in the coastal belt, this port town became the main centre for their commercial, diplomatic, and political transactions. But as a religious centre it began to recede into oblivion in the larger Indian Ocean and Islamic scholarly networks. The present article examines this dual process and suggests important reasons for the transformations. It argues that the port town became crucial for diplomatic and economic interests of the Dutch East India Company and the Zamorins, whereas its Muslim population became more parochial as they engaged with themselves than with the larger socio-political and scholarly networks.

Paolo Sartori and Bakhtiyar Babajanov


How far, if at all, did the intellectual legacy of early 20th-century Muslim reformism inform the transformative process which Islam underwent in Soviet Central Asia, especially after WWII? Little has been done so far to analyze the output of Muslim scholars (ʿulamāʾ) operating under Soviet rule from the perspective of earlier Islamic intellectual traditions. The present essay addresses this problem and sheds light on manifestations of continuity among Islamic intellectual practices—mostly puritanical—from the period immediately before the October Revolution to the 1950s. Such a continuity, we argue, profoundly informed the activity of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Central Asia and Kazakhstan (SADUM) established in Tashkent in 1943 and, more specifically, the latter’s attack against manifestations of religiosity deemed “popular,” which were connected to the cult of saints. Thus, this essay posits that the juristic output of Soviet ʻulamā’ in Central Asia originates from and further develops an Islamic reformist thinking, which manifested itself in the region in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. By establishing such an intellectual genealogy, we seek in this article to revise a historiographical narrative which has hitherto tended to decouple scripturalist sensibilities from Islamic reformism and modernism.

Michael Morony


The present article shows that, according to archaeological and literary evidence, an expansion in mining occurred in the early Islamic world as a result of changes in mining technology at the end of Late Antiquity. The production of gold, silver, copper, iron, and other minerals is shown to have peaked in the eighth and ninth centuries and then to have declined during the tenth and eleventh centuries due to insecurity and/or exhaustion of the mines. Mining development was financed privately, and mines were usually private property.

Educated with Distinction

Educational Decisions and Girls’ Schooling in Late Ottoman Syria

Christian Sassmannshausen


Beginning in the 1850s, the Ottoman Empire’s educational landscape expanded and diversified. During this era of imperial reforms, discourses around education increasingly focused on the importance of female education. This article uses census material from Tripoli in today’s Lebanon to explore the experiences of students in the wake of these shifts. It examines literacy rates across different social and religious groups and the extent to which educational decisions parents made were biased by gender and class. The analysis reveals that the rate of Muslim boys’ literacy was high even before new schools opened starting in the 1850s. As for the post-reform developments, it shows that although around a quarter of propertied families decided to send their sons and daughters to school, a considerable proportion of Muslim and Christian families privileged sons alone. Still, reforms allowed a number of groups in the generations between 1860 and 1910 to achieve higher rates of literacy, including Muslim and Christian girls as well as the children of artisans.

Chris Wickham


Egyptian land tenure in the Fāṭimid period (969-1171) is often assumed to have been based on state ownership of agricultural land and tax-farming, as was in general the case in the Mamlūk period which followed it, and as many Islamic legal theorists rather schematically thought. This article aims to show that this was not the case; Arabic paper and parchment documents show that private landowning was normal in Egypt into the late eleventh century and later. Egypt emerges as more similar to other Mediterranean regions than is sometimes thought. The article discusses the evidence for this, and the evidence for what changed after 1100 or so, and, more tentatively, why it changed.

Beatrice Penati


This article analyses the drafting process and underlying principles of early Soviet legislation on water rights and taxation on water in Central Asia. While the new Bolshevik ideology provided an ideal justification to enact the State-centric, technocratic principles implicit in the Tsarist Turkestan “water law” of 1916, it took a very long time for the Soviet regime to produce a comprehensive legislation that would explicitly replace the local pre-existing customs which had survived in the colonial period. This is surprising especially in the light of the continuity in personnel in the government agencies that governed land and water resources across the 1917 revolution. Two possible reasons for this slowness were the early Soviet “decolonisation” imperative and the inertial persuasion that the legislator could not fully grasp the intricacies of water-related rights and duties.

Niccolò Pianciola


The article addresses the managing of Aral Sea fisheries by the Tsarist administration, and the making of a colonial frontier inhabited by exiled Ural Cossack, Qaraqalpaq, Qazaq, Russian, and Ukrainian fishermen. By comparing the different power relations between Cossacks and the local population on the Ural River and in the Aral Sea region, it shows how they shaped fisheries management regulations and their effectiveness. It also investigates the conditions of production of scientific knowledge on the Aral Sea ecosystem and what role it played in governance decision-making. By drafting a series of fishing regulations and by examining the balance between humans and aquatic animals, scientists oriented the Tsarist government’s decisions on how to manage both the fisheries and the populations that exploited them. At the same time, members of a specific social group, the exiled Ural Cossacks, functioned as mediators between the imperial state and an ecosystem undergoing colonization.

Shirley Ye


Since the late imperial era, Yellow River floods have endangered the environmental equilibrium of North China, including parts of the Grand Canal. The Republican government’s response to water disasters reflected the influence of global networks and institutions of expertise. By turning to an American company for infrastructure work on the Grand Canal, Chinese government officials placed their faith in global science and finance to renew a domestic symbol of state power. The project failed; nonetheless the efforts to restore the waterways and provide relief reveal the entangled humanitarian, corporate, and educational interests of modern China’s state building and environmental management.

Loretta Kim and Niccolò Pianciola